Thursday, 14 November 2013

Atheists using the Bible to “Convert” Christians?

YouVersion is a wonderful Bible app for your phone, tablet, or computer. It offers different versions of the Bible in different translations, is very intuitive with the capability to highlight, bookmark and make notes, as well as offering a selection of reading plans. Its the sort of thing you might be surprised to find on the tablet of your regular atheist. Yet, it seems atheists are finding it helpful in winning arguments with Christians and even winning those Christians over to their Godless view of the world. You can read about it on the Religious News Service (RNS)


The first question that occurs to me is why are atheists bothering to make converts? Are they so determined to turn people away from a gospel of hope (gospel means Good News Mark 1:1 GNB) to their counsel of despair? I hear atheists complain that Christians speak of hell, yet here they are making hell on earth, robbing folk of the very hope of escaping a lost eternity. Nice one atheism!

Then, of course, there is a certain perverse delight taken in making converts. With apparent glee, one atheist said, “Nothing makes you an atheist faster than reading the Bible. It’s one of those beautiful side effects of having these Bibles free and easily accessible.”

When a Christian sees someone come to Christ they delight in their having stepped into the light of God’s love. It appears that these atheist delights in the reverse journey, taking great pleasure in having deceived a believer into the bleak darkness of their Godless world; and its not as though their arguments deserve consideration, much less respect.

Breaking the Rules

Some time ago I stopped into Waterstones bookshop to buy Richard Dawkins’ book The Greatest Show on Earth, an excellent volume, spoiled only by the regular snide and irrational asides about Christians, all of whom are put in the same category of mindless, insane, young-earth-creationist blind believers. Anyway, as I say, otherwise a good book.

When I took the book to the sales point two members of staff stood there and immediately entered into a conversation about the book. Oh, one exclaimed, has he brought out a new book? Yes, the other drooled, isn’t it absolutely marvellous, I must get one and read it.

Oh dear! Clearly, this wasn’t something they thought about, rather more something they subscribed to because it suited them; and they criticise Christians for being mindlessly unthinking!

People can be like that, don’t you find? They decide what suits them and order their thinking, such as it is, their lives,  their reading, conversation and their company accordingly. Of course, in many areas of life it doesn’t matter one jot. Getting your haircut, choosing a hobby, going to parties, planning a holiday. One man’s meat, as they say…

There are, however, some areas of life where it isn’t wise to ignore the rules, otherwise you can get into all kinds of trouble. Of course, it isn’t for me to lay down rules for others but there are rules in life and it is well worth giving them some consideration. For instance, when driving your car, crossing the road, wiring your house – gaining a clear and accurate understanding of the Bible.

Break the rules of society, of culture and of manners, and the consequences may not be the end of the world; indeed they might be fun. Break the rules of the road, of simple road sense, of electrical wiring, and you can end up very dead indeed. Break the rules of Bible reading and, in your death, you may end up…well.

Take the remarks of:

“Lauren, a 22-year-old chemistry major from Colorado, is not interested in the app’s mission to deepen faith and biblical literacy. A newly minted atheist, she uses her YouVersion Bible app to try to persuade people away from the Christianity she grew up in.

‘I know of a lot of atheists who have come to their nonbelief by actually reading the Bible rather than just the fluffy stories they choose to tell you about in church,’ she said. ‘Reading the full story with all its contradictions and violence and sexism, it should make you think, ‘Is this really what I believe in?’ At least it did for me.’” (quoted in the RNS article)

Oh, Do Grow up!

Dear Lauren, she speaks of ‘the fluffy stories they choose to tell you about in church,’ of the shocking things she discovered when she read the Bible for herself, and this is a characteristic of all those taking pleasure in parading their atheism, “travelling across land and sea to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, [they] make him twice as much a child of hell as [themselves].” (Mt.23:15)

The story, it seems then, is that these muddle-headed people have read their Bibles for the first time and, acting on their first impressions, have turned their backs on God. Having been more than satisfied with ‘fluffy stories,’ for which others are always to blame, since they never take responsibility for themselves, they turn to the Bible and, having consulted no one in particular, make of it what they will. That is breaking the rules.

You hear it in Lauren’s remark, ‘Reading the full story with all its contradictions and violence and sexism, it should make you think, ‘Is this really what I believe in?’ At least it did for me.’”

The atheist of this low calibre simply takes what they think the Bible means, and compares it with, ‘what I believe,’ dismissing what doesn’t suit them and feeling quite smug about it into the bargain. Oh, dear!

These people really should grow up, take some responsibility for their folly, learn and apply the rules. For instance, it is utter folly to compare the mores of our society with that of societies some two-thousand and more years ago.  This is a simple rule of historical research. But who needs rules when you have already made up your mind?

Not a Book of Instructions

Furthermore, the Bible is not a simple book of instructions. In many different literary styles it is a collection of poetry, parable, philosophy, theology, history, and of stories covering over 3,000 years. Some stories are examples, some are warnings. If you take the warnings for examples, well, of course you are going to be shocked. If you take the culture, practices, errors and sins of ages past as God’s ultimate ‘norm’ then you are going to be disappointed.

Even in the Bible, stories are culturally bound, so attitudes cannot be, and we should not expect them to be, so foreign to the surrounding society as to be completely alien and irrelevant. On the other hand, it is true that the Christian religion is, in its own way, most peculiar for its time, blazing a trail in cross-cultural harmony (Eph.2:11-21)emancipation for slaves and women (Gal.3:28) setting the bar high on issues of morality and civilised society (Mt.5-7). Indeed, the Judeo/Christian tradition laid a solid foundation for what we so take for granted today, Western concepts of freedom, equality, morality, justice and mercy.

The Bible is God’s Word and it only makes sense, it is a rule if you will, that you should allow God to speak for himself in his word. What does God mean by this? rather than, What words will I put in God’s mouth, what charge shall I lay at his door? It is wicked to caricature Bible lessons as ‘fluffy stories’ and, while it is commendable that someone should read it for themselves, it is a mistake to read into it our own prejudices, preconceptions and misunderstandings.

It is foolishness to think that, having nothing but what you regard as fluffy stories to draw upon, you should think yourself capable of fully understanding a document that has proved the better of generations who have tried to dismiss it, ban it and burn it, that has comforted and encouraged, educated and equipped countless Christians to acts of great courage, philanthropy, sacrifice and service . The 19th century preacher C H Spurgeon famously declared, “Defend the Bible? I would as soon defend a lion! Unchain it and it will defend itself.”

But then, if you come to it with your mind made up…

 The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’ (Ps.14:1)

No comments: